Foreign athletes have had a big impact in the U.S. on college basketball, swimming, track and field and other varsity sports. But the foreign influence has been especially great in intercollegiate tennis. This is true even at the small-college level. Witness the controversy that arose during the recent NAIA tournament in Kansas City.
To call the NAIA tourney foreign-dominated would be a grave understatement. Nine of the top 10 seeds in men's play were imports, and in the singles final a Canadian, Peter Pristach of Lander ( S.C.) College, beat a Mexican, Jorge Jimenez of the University of Texas-Tyler. In a showdown between Swedish teammates at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Berit Bj�rk beat Katy Livijn in the women's singles final. The only American to reach the semifinals in either men's or women's play was Pam Caplin of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., who lost to Livijn, but not before lending her voice to a rising chorus that holds that foreigners shouldn't be welcome in NAIA competition.
"If I knew where to start I'd be the first one in line to start a movement to get rid of them," Caplin said. "If they want to come here and play, let them pay for school instead of getting scholarships. Let them put money in the American economy. Sure they are superior players, but I don't think Berit Bj�rk should have got an award as an Ail-American. She's not an American."
The Swedes replied in kind. After defeating Caplin in the semis 6-3, 6-2, Livijn said, "I wanted to beat her badly for what she said. I wanted to make it quick. I wanted to kill her." Bj�rk said, "When I read what she said, I said, 'What's the matter with that girl? What's her problem? Big words, big mouth.' " But it was left to Arkansas-Little Rock coach Paul Kostin, also a Swede, to point out that the presence of gifted foreigners can only raise the standard of play in what is, after all, an international game. "The bottom line is that if American players want to be able to play at a high level, they'll have to be able to handle foreign players," Kostin said. "You don't just play Americans if you go on the circuit."